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Interview by -Stacey Wood / Editor FEDP

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Interview: Lamees A.

The Devil’s Way Author Interview

with Lamees A.

Q: Did your personal experiences shape the plot of The Devil’s Way?

A: Yes, this book is inspired by true events, and I believe that this can be anyone’s story. In these times we need to be open to influences from around the world, and like Malcolm, I have been shaped by my travels, as well as my personal and professional experiences.

Another place where there may be bits of me is in Malcolm’s sense of righteousness, and his innate sense of morality. Of course Malcolm’s experiences are essentially of the magic-realism genre, and his situations are pretty stark and dramatic, which can’t be part of any real person’s life experiences!

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Q: The protagonist, Malcolm, has a drive to solve world issues. Does this drive help you, as the author, to create a moral to convey to the readers?

A: Yes it does. The moral is that we are essentially only human, and we all have free will to forge our path. However, in doing so we will be severely tested, and undergo a series of experiences that will determine who we are as a person.

The drive that we have as human beings plays an important part in helping us realize our aspirations, but in the process we do impact other people’s lives. It should be our endeavor to try to not be a negative force in anyone else’s life.

A questioning mind like Malcolm’s has the potential to both do immense good with the knowledge he has gathered, or actually cause immense harm with his never-ending quest for perfection.

I believe that we all have a responsibility of growing to become the best we can be, while at the same time looking around us to help others whenever possible. The world’s problems are our problems, too. We all have to work together to make the world a better place.

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Q: Malcolm’s interactions are primarily with a non-idealistic priest. Why did you create a character of such makeup?

A: There is an inherent duality in life. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; good and evil, yin and yang, day and night, and so on. Duality brings about balance.

A priest, or any religious person, will be recognized as a representative of God, and hence will be easily trusted in whatever they say or do. The message I am trying to send is don’t be deceived by people’s appearance—look beyond that. You never know what you might find!

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Q: Why does Malcolm need to leave Boston in order to have this journey of discovery?

A: A wise man said there are five benefits from travelling, and I agree with him. I personally believe that travelling expands the mind and broadens one’s horizon like nothing else. Malcolm’s journey included visiting different countries, continents, and nations, where everything is different and challenging, including the cultures, ways of life, and values.

Malcolm not only travelled to different places but to different times, too. His learning included travelling to the past and the future.

The greatest men and prophets of all ages have had their epiphanies in relation to their journeys. Jesus was always journeying from one place to another; the Prophet Mohammad made an epic journey from Mecca to Medina; Gandhi journeyed to South Africa, and Martin Luther King Jr. made a pilgrimage to India.

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Q: Would you say that the premise of your narrative is similar to other stories, possibly even stories as antiquated as those found in morality plays? Did these stories inspire your own writing?

A: Yes, over my lifetime I have read extensively, and these ideas all merged in my mind. I love reading; reading changes people, nations, and civilizations.

The book tells us that we all make mistakes. We all sin; we are not perfect. But there is a road to redemption, by asking for God’s forgiveness. We should never stop learning, developing, and evolving.

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Q: What brought you into writing from the career world?

A: My experiences in the career world have been fascinating, and I have learnt a great deal about how external influences like the business environment that one works in, and the types of peers and colleagues one interacts with, impact one’s growth as an individual. The extreme stress put on excellence, and the constant threat of competition bring personality traits to the fore that are not necessarily desirable.

I felt that by writing I could communicate the essence of what I have processed and synthesized from my years of experience, in a way that would benefit a reader in that they would possibly find it a little easier to cope with the vicissitudes of life, both in the workplace and in general.

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Q: Could you share some of your own ideas regarding theology?

A: My being a believer is based on the premise that I consider it highly likely that life as it is, organized in this vastly intricate way that began with a perfect environmental balance, and an intricate and interdependent food chain, has to have been by design.

I absolutely abhor the excesses perpetrated in the name of religion, and reject the notion that any people, race, or religion are superior to any other. For me, God denotes free will, tolerance, acceptance, and above all, forgiveness.

So while I am all for a belief in God, I equally believe that anyone has the right, and indeed the duty, to live and experience life to the fullest. And above all, have full respect for each other and acceptance of all our differences. Even if they are currently in sin, we can love the person, not the behavior.

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Q: What point does your writing back about intellectualism and, possibly, the rise in popularity of humanistic studies and belief constructs?

A: An intellectual is not somebody pontificating from an ivory tower. On the contrary, an intellectual is someone who, out of an innate sense of kindness and love for the world, tries to both understand what it is that makes a man truly happy, and then tries to convey that message forward.

In order to do that, one may or may not be a believer in the true sense, but one’s quest has to be real. Bertrand Russell, for example, is an agnostic, but nobody would argue the fact that he is both an intellectual and a humanist.

This provides the answer to your question about the rising popularity of humanistic studies and belief constructs. However, the way I seek to reach out is to make this kind of intellectual approach less intimidating and more accessible for my readers. This way they won’t have to navigate terms like existentialism or mindfulness, or need to read philosophic treatises by the likes of Cicero, Plato, or Confucius.

I try to convey an essence of the great humanistic philosophies of the world by plain, old-fashioned storytelling.

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Q: You integrate other sources of literature into your story. Do you feel these additions are timeless, contemporary, or pieces that simply echo mankind’s feelings as espoused in the book?

A: Many of the great sources of literature have a timelessness about them. They describe the human state, which essentially is the same across eras, cultures, and civilizations. Because these are timeless tales about the human condition, they do blend in seamlessly with mankind’s feelings, which have been espoused in the book.

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The Power of Listening Author Interview

with Lamees A.

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Q: Would you say that The Power of Listening, as a non-fiction text, is a self-help book?

A: It’s more than just self-help; it’s business help and relationship help as well. The Power of Listening is a well-researched book that lets the reader understand and leverage the benefits of listening.

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Q: What types of people would be most likely to read and use the information the text provides? Who is the intended audience?

A: Well, I would like to think the target audience is quite large. It would include older school children, college students, professionals, employees, employers, singles, couples, and families. Effective listening is extremely useful to all the above categories of people.

The information provided in the text helps them both in their personal and work lives, as it makes them very adept at empathetic communication.

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Q: At the beginning of the book, you provide readers with a brief survey so that they are able to see the type of listener they already are. Why do you feel this is important for the readers to do?

A: The survey forms were created by experts to scientifically assess one’s listening ability. It’s important to have a benchmark starting point in order to track improvement. No matter how astute a person’s listening ability is, doing the exercises in the book allows the reader to come up with unique and often surprising perspectives. The surveys in the book have an extra element because they look at the reader’s perspective of his or her listening abilities, as well as the way he or she is perceived by others.

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Q: Where did you gather the insightful information for this book?

A: Firstly, my own corporate experience in manpower training and motivation over the years has been very helpful. I have maintained extensive notes, and I drew upon that source. Secondly, I read a lot of professional papers, attend many seminars, and generally keep myself up to date with the latest findings of behavioral science.

Above all, I applied everything that I have learnt in my own life, and that helped me fine-tune the contents of the book till I was satisfied that it was good to go.

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Q: How do you know how much Internet access President Obama allows his children?

A: There was a fair bit of press about it just after President Obama was sworn in as president for his second term.

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Q: At the closing of your text, you mention that it should be shared. Why?

A: So that more and more people can understand the benefits and powers of effective listening. Many of our day-to-day problems have their genesis in our inability to listen in the right way. Listening is a two-way street; someone needs to be speaking in order to practice listening. Finding a listening partner will help both people, as well as everyone they interact with.

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Q: What is your overall goal for this book and its publication?

A: To help as many people as possible to understand that the ability to listen effectively can be a very empowering experience. It can transform the quality of their lives on both a personal level and a professional level.

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Q: Did writing the book help you to become a better listener?

A: Oh absolutely! Almost everything that I have put down in the book I have first validated in my own life.

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Q: What traits of listening do you find to be the hardest?

A: Surprisingly, the hardest one is not having a parallel track running inside my head. But I am still working on it.

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Q: If you were to make The Power of Listening into a documentary, how would you go about it?

A: It absolutely lends itself to visual representation. All the advice given in the book can be enacted in real-life simulations. A documentary would enhance the text; there is no doubt about that.

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The Power of Gratitude Author Interview

with Lamees A.

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Q: What inspired you to write The Power of Gratitude? You dedicated the book to several people in your life. Were these people the inspiration?

A: The biggest malaise afflicting modern times is that we are made to think that we are some kind of heroic Lone Ranger. We are not. Man is a social animal.

We need symbiotic relationships with one another in order to thrive, and that requires that we be good to each other. Gratitude is what makes human relationships blossom and grow. The people I have dedicated this book to are the ones who I am eternally grateful to—my family, friends, and mentors.

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Q: Tell us more about what being ungrateful does to a person. What effect does this person have upon the world and his or herself?

A: Being ungrateful makes you lose touch with your own inner self. By being ungrateful, you deny yourself and the world around you.

If everybody goes into that mode, we will have a sick society on our hands, something that I am afraid we are moving towards in today’s times. Things must change for the better, and we have to start this change today. Gratitude can make the world a better place.

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Q: In your opinion and study, who are the world’s most grateful people?

A: Happy people will find it quite easy to be grateful, and unhesitatingly display their gratitude. I have noticed this in people, and psychology supports this.

People who carry a chip on their shoulder, or who come across as the brooding and sullen type, are the least likely to be the kind who would show gratitude. So, if gratitude leads to happiness, perhaps we are all better off in learning to feel and express it. My favorite part in the book is Mandela’s speech. Every time I read it, I get tears in my eyes. The most grateful person I know personally is my father. He lost a son and a sister in a span of six months and he is still thanking God for whatever comes his way.

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Q: Have you ever found it hard to be grateful?

A: Definitely. But I try to do my best to maintain perspective, and keep the bigger picture in mind, especially in my relationships. I write in my gratitude journal every day. In hard times I refer to it, and it always manages to put things in perspective for me.

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Q: How did you find the information for your text, and did you learn more about gratitude while composing it?

A: I learnt it on a practical level from my family, colleagues and peers, and also in the process of teaching and mentoring others.

When I decided to write this book, I carried out extensive research, conducting dipstick surveys and interviewing a lot of people from eclectic backgrounds. In the process, I was able to deconstruct what gratitude meant to different people with different ages, backgrounds, countries, cultures, and religions. This made me learn more about gratitude and the different ways it is expressed. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to write this book, and learning and growing during the process of writing it.

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Q: Can you explain more about you, your background, and the ways in which learning and life experience have made you more grateful?

A: I am a professional and career-oriented woman. I am equally a family person, and nothing gives me greater joy than the time I spend with my family. I am also quite close to my parents and siblings.

It would not have been possible for me to have so much fulfillment and love in my life if it hadn’t been for the fact that life has taught me to be grateful for the many bounties it offers me. We all have had our fair share of problems, but for me it is important to never lose sight of the bigger picture, and cherish what is important to us.

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Q: In your opinion, are those who are theologically driven versus scientifically driven more grateful?

A: Whether being a theologically driven person or a scientifically driven person doesn’t matter. In the end we are all humans, and we all need to practice gratitude in order to make the world a better place.

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Q: What are your hopes for this book? Who do you hope to affect, and how do you hope to affect them?

A: I have great hopes for this book, for this has been a labor of love for me. I genuinely believe that we can’t have too much gratitude in society. Gratitude is the glue that binds society, and we can prevent modern society from coming unstuck by the simple, expedient practice of gratitude. I hope this book can change people’s lives, and together we can change the world into a better place.

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Q: Can you give a personal example of a time when you were not grateful and experienced negative affects?

A: Yes I can. As a professional, I always prided myself for being very efficient and good at what I did. So much so that I never felt that I owed any sort of a debt of gratitude to my organization, which had helped hone my skills.

It was at the time of the last recession, when all firms were sacking (firing) people right, left, and center, that I realized how much my job meant to me, and how distraught I would be if I lost it.

Lucky enough I did not lose my job, but I sure had some anxious moments back then. Ever since, I wake up every day feeling grateful that I have a job, and appreciate the firm I work for.

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Q: Have you ever written a letter of gratitude? Who was it to, and how was it received?

A: Oh yes. I wrote one to my math teacher in 10th grade. She had given me a tough time throughout the term, and I hated her guts. But when I topped the class in math that year, something that I had never done before, I realized that she had only wanted for me to realize my true potential—something even I wasn’t aware of.

I wrote her a gratitude letter and put it on her desk when she wasn’t in the classroom. She read the letter, and was over the moon about it. She spoke to me about it later, and expressed her own gratitude at my tribute to her. She told me that I was one of her favorite students, because she knew that I was smart enough, and that was why she was extra tough with me.

I stayed in touch with her for many years, even after I left school, and often sought her advice on academic and career matters.

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